I’ve been writing off and on about my Brazilian trip since I returned home to now-freezing Toronto, promising all the time that I’d get around to mentioning the specific beers and breweries that impressed me. And for one reason or another, I haven’t gotten around to doing so yet.
But now’s the time.
Going back to the three breweries that impressed me enough at this past summer’s Mondial de la Bière to make me want to travel all the way to São Paulo and beyond, I remain a fan of Cervejaria Colorado, Falke and Wäls. The first, Colorado, is lead by the man most people I spoke with identify as the co-father of Brazilian craft brewing – alongside Cássio Piccolo of FrangÓ – Marcelo Rocha. Of his brewery’s four mainstay brews, I very much enjoy the Indica IPA, fermented with rapadura cane sugar to a soft apple fruitiness and balanced with a firm but not overwhelming hoppy bitterness, qualities that lend it very much to pairing with Brazilian cuisine. The Brazilian coffee-flavoured Demoiselle Porter is also a very fine ale, with a well-integrated coffee appeal and roundly roasty body.
Falke’s Marco Falcone achieves his greatest success – of what I had the chance to try, at least – with his abbey-style Monasterium, with ample spice and raisin on the nose and more spice blended with notes of apricot, dried pear and orange in the body, along with some light vanilla and lingering warmth on the finish. Not to be discounted, though, is the same brewery’s Ouro Preto, a rich and pumpernickel-ish schwarzbier.
Wäls has some good things going on in their abbey-inspired ales, too, but suffers from over-pasteurization in the bottle, a not entirely uncommon trait of Brazilian craft beers, I’m afraid. Their Tripel is fresh and floral and fruity on tap and darker and flatter of flavour in the bottle, for example.
On the new-to-me front, I found plenty to be happy about, beginning with one of the first beers I sampled at the beer festival, Klein Tchec, a Bohemian-German hybrid pilsner with soft and enticing florals on the nose and front end and a solid slap of bitter hoppiness in the back. A scant few beers later, I encountered Junkabeer’s Double Vienna Lager, a beer that should make me roll my eyes with its name – “double” this and “Imperial” that always try my patience – but instead lured me onside with its floral passion fruit aroma and intriguing flavour that made me think of the taste of apricots – if they were a flower instead of a fruit.
The stylish Cerveja Coruja caught my eye with their packaging and display, but got my attention with a solid, lightly sulphur-y keller-style lager called Otis and an excellent weissbier by the name of Alba Weizen, pleasantly phenolic on the nose thanks to the use of a small amount of smoked malt and crisp, dry and apple-citrusy in the body.
I predict great things to come from Cervejaria Way, a brewery so new they only received their name and graphics the Friday before the fest. Their American Pale Ale is a solid and balanced interpretation of the style, with a spicy hoppiness and notes of apple, buckwheat honey and toasted citrus peel, but their Umburana Lager, at 9.6% alcohol and aged on Brazilian umburana wood chips to lightly tannic, vanilla-spiced smoothness, is really the one to watch here.
And then there is Cervejaria Bodebrown, an enigmatic brewery and brewing school combination led by Samuel Cavalcanti, who wears his disdain of the Reinheitsgebot like a badge of honour and backs up his bravado with such brews as the Cerveja de Amor, a weissbier flavoured quite refreshingly with the tartness of fresh raspberries, and the whisky barrel-aged, 8% alcohol Wee Heavy, with flavour notes of chocolate fudge, vanilla bean, date and raisin, all leading to a spicy, warming finish.
On the more conventional side of the ledger, Abadessa caught my attention with a solid Export, crafted true to the Dortmund style and gifted with what Michael Jackson used to call a “firm maltiness.” One sip of this dryly toasty lager, I think, explains better than words ever could what export is all about, and their Helles wasn’t bad, either!
Outside of the festival, I continued to encounter worthy brews, like Falke’s ESB-ish Estrada Real IPA, Cervejaria Bamberg’s solid and lemon-spicy Weizen and moderately smoky, caramelly Rauchbier, with its nutty grain, kasha-esque aroma, and Eisenbahn’s Dunkel, really a schwarzbier and still a solid offering two years after the brewery’s sale to Schincariol.
In summary, I sampled a healthy number of good beers with great potential while in Brazil, a handful of problematic ones and more than just a few for which the future is now. I said it on Facebook and I’ll say it again here: My prediction is that as the World Cup and Olympics in Brazil get closer, we’ll be hearing a lot more from Brazilian breweries not named InBev!